Earlier this week, Jose Vasquez, Starr County’s health authority, called the situation “desperate” and said that some gravely ill patients with low chances of survival will be sent home.
“The situation is desperate,” Vasquez said during a Tuesday news conference, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We cannot continue functioning in the Starr County Memorial Hospital nor in our county in the way that things are going. The numbers are staggering.”
“There is nowhere to put these patients. The whole state of Texas and neighboring states have no ICU [intensive care unit] beds to spare for us,” Vazquez added.
“We are going to have these committees reviewing each case. End-of-life decisions and hospice decisions and comfort-care situation for all those patients who most certainly do not have any hope of improving, we believe they will be better taken care in the love of their own family and home rather than thousands of miles away dying alone.”
According to the Caller Times, some smaller communities in Texas, including Aransas and Kleberg counties, don’t have sufficient resources to even trace COVID-19 cases, as they don’t have their own designated health departments.
Texas has become a COVID-19 hotspot in recent weeks. According to the latest data by the Texas Department of State Health Services, there were almost 10,000 new cases reported on Thursday, and the total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the state has surpassed 361,000. There were also 173 new COVID-19-related deaths in Texas on Thursday alone.
Although cases did not immediately begin to spike after Texas Governor Greg Abbott reopened the state on May 1, they have substantially surged following Memorial Day weekend.
In late June, Abbott expressed regret over reopening bars in the state too quickly.
"If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting," Abbott said during a June interview with local outlet KVIA in El Paso.
The Lone Star State isn’t the only state suffering in the US. In nearby Georgia, new COVID-19 cases have also been exploding. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there has been an average of around 3,000 new cases being reported every day in the state in the last week.
According to a July 23 situation report available on the department’s website, 87% of critical care beds and 82% of general inpatient beds in Georgia hospitals are in use. Hospitalizations have also increased tenfold between March 25 and July 23.
Dr. Thomas Tsai of Harvard's TH Chan School of Public Health recently told CNN that the spike in COVID-19 cases was the result of various policy issues.
"It's this perfect storm of factors. Under-testing, early reopening and lack of enforcement of masking and physical-distancing policies have really compounded the pandemic that is playing out in Georgia," he told the outlet.
The professor went on to note that the situation was further worsened by the manner in which state officials interpreted COVID-19 data, which ultimately led to ill-timed decisions such as reopening the state economy earlier than they should have.
The Georgia Department of Public Health has rejected Tsai’s stance, saying that its analysis of the state data was done through “traditional” means used since the beginning of the pandemic.